The Tampa Theatre’s gargoyle faces stare at patrons as they pass by the dim light of a movie hall styled with antique furniture and Mediterranean design. Instead of bringing a dramatic opera or classic movie to the screen, though, the imposing theater will soon be home to a crab singing about life under the sea.
That’s because the theater is hosting a sing-a-long version of The Little Mermaid on Friday.
“We like to have a little fun here, so for our sing-a-longs, the distributors will take prints and adapt them so that the song lyrics appear on the film and the audience can sing along,” said Tara Schroeder, director of programming for the theater.
For Mermaid, Disney made two special-version 35-millimeter prints of the movie, which has a very limited release.
“We’re one of only four theaters that will have The Little Mermaid in the whole country,” Schroeder said. “They approached us because we have a good relationship with them and they know how good we do with the sing-a-longs.”
The sing-a-long Mermaid is the fifth sing-a-long at the theater, following The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins and Grease.
“As a little extra fun, we encourage the audience to come dressed up as a character in the film or something inspired by the film,” Schroeder said.
Before the movie begins, a host invites everyone who arrived in a costume onstage for the theater’s “Audience Costume Parade.” Patrons walk across the stage and the movie host passes the microphone around, asking people who they are.
“Everyone gets to be a star for a moment,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said her favorite costume was from the parade for Oz, when a group of people came as the tornado — complete with plastic cows — while the craziest was during the Sound of Music, when two pregnant women dressed as nuns.
Lisa Romano, volunteer and Tampa Theatre patron, attended previous sing-a-longs and plans to attend Mermaid as well.
“The last one I went to was the one for Grease,” she said. “I loved the movie. It was really cool to see the audience participation. It just brought the movie to life.”
Patrons who bring a camera to the first screening will be able to have their picture taken with a Weeki Wachee mermaid.
The theater’s doors open an hour before the movie starts and Schroeder encourages everyone to come early to explore, walk around and take in the beautiful structure and craftsmanship.
The Tampa Theatre is a restored classic theater built in 1926 that shows documentaries and classic, foreign and independent films.
“I like the very dark ambiance of it,” Romano said. “It’s the perfect place to see a movie.”
Additional showings for the sing-a-long The Little Mermaid will be at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $11.50 for adults, $10.50 with a student ID and $9.50 for seniors or those in the military.
The Tampa Theatre is located at 711 N Franklin St.